The screen game was not kind to the Pittsburgh Steelers’ defense in 2016. You may have already been able to guess that based on some of the big play they gave up but to put a number on it, the Steelers didn’t come out looking good.
Pro Football Focus’ Mike Renner has the data.
As an addition. Here are the yards allowed by every defense on screen passes this season. Correlation not coincidence pic.twitter.com/ytRZHPtZ9v
— Mike Renner (@PFF_Mike) February 2, 2017
The 354 yards allowed comes out as the 11th most allowed last year, bottom third in the league. That’s actually a little better than where I thought the Steelers would stack up. To their credit, things got better as the year went on, just as the whole defense did.
The biggest blows came during the first half of the season. The Philadelphia Eagles chewed Pittsburgh up with several screens in their blowout victory, including a 40 yard screen to Darren Sproles early in the game. Sproles would finish the day with 128 yards receiving.
Ezekiel Elliott cashed in on an 80 yard screen in Week 9, the biggest hit to the numbers. Those problems were mostly eliminated after that and the Steelers did a good job of shutting down wide receiver screens, helping to keep this number from ballooning up even more.
But it’s clearly one area the Steelers need to do a consistently better job in for 2017 so add that to Keith Butler’s to-do list.
One thing Butler did was to drop the nose tackle, or at least a defensive linemen, on some of his blitz schemes, to cover the back. It might not always be a pleasant sight to see Javon Hargrave or Daniel McCullers or chasing LeSean McCoy, but it’s one way to help at least slow down any screen pass. That might be something we’ll examine further in the offseason.